The Power in the way we Think

Posts tagged ‘new opportunities’

Self-Esteem

bowl of self esteem

Self-Esteem is a “respect for or a favourable opinion of oneself” according to dictionary.com.

The second part of this is probably the easier to explore, so let’s look at it first. A “favourable opinion of oneself”. To think and believe highly of yourself. To know that you are worthy. To understand that you have skills and talents that the world would miss if you weren’t in it. To understand that you deserve love. To love yourself, and every part of you. Even the parts not usually “acceptable” in society – the flabby bits on your body, the tendency to say things without thinking first, or even the habit of procrastinating on doing the things most important to you. Whatever it is you hate about yourself.

Let’s have a look at the first part. A “respect for oneself”. Do you respect yourself? Enough to stand up for your rights? Enough to walk away from people who mistreat you or take you for granted? Enough to create and enforce boundaries? Enough to take the actions necessary to protect your time, energy, space, body, emotions and spirit? Do you respect yourself enough to find and follow your passion? To share your special gifts with the world? Enough to allow your unique and wonderful spirit to soar?

I believe all of these to be the most important things we can do for ourselves. I have personally discovered that without them, one lives a half-life. We simply exist, instead of live. We experience dissatisfaction, negativity and often self-hatred.

Self-esteem is multi-faceted. It is complex. It’s dynamic and changing. It will fluctuate as things happen in your life. Your sense of self as a child was certainly different to when you were 20. And that was certainly different to what it is right in this moment, here and now.

Are you happy with the way you feel about yourself right now? Do you believe in yourself and your abilities? Is there anything about yourself that you would like to change? Is there anything you’re unhappy with? Your size? Your appearance? Maybe your finances or the way you speak to your family? Your education or employment?

Whatever it may be, the chances are that the answer is not in fixing the things you’re unhappy with.

If you learned to love and accept yourself unconditionally, you’d look at the world differently. You wouldn’t need to shed weight to be lovable. You wouldn’t need to change your body to be beautiful. You wouldn’t need to get a better job or earn more money to be worthy. And you wouldn’t need to stop speaking without thinking. Instead, it would simply be one of the little quirks to love about yourself.

Self-love and unconditional acceptance would allow you to feel free. To feel centred and whole and complete. You would naturally allow your spirit to soar, you would eagerly follow your passions and show the world your unique skills and talents. You would generate and send out love to those around you. And you’d tackle challenges with faith and surety that everything will turn out exactly the way it is meant to.

This month’s focus will explore all of these issues. We’ll talk about boundaries, accomplishments, spirit, skills, unique talents, purpose, beauty and more. If you would like to read about something specific, please comment below, on our Facebook or Twitter feeds, or flick us an email at mindseteffect@optusnet.com.au, and we’ll endeavor to meet your needs.

 

 

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What I’ve Learned about Self-Care

This article is a guest post from someone who really understands what it’s like to need to practice self-care. This lady lives every day with the knowledge that if she pushes her body too far it could break down and stop her living her purpose. I am proud to introduce you to my friend Madeleine; a free, creative and intuitive spirit.

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Her bio reads:

Madeleine bio

Madeleine is a writer who also enjoys a number of other creative pursuits, including songwriting, singing, fashion design and modelling. She is also passionate about personal and spiritual growth and alternative healing.

 Madeleine lives with the constant knowledge of what it’s like to struggle through each day – for many years she’s had CFS/FM combined with autonomic dysfunction. Although she directly understands the challenge of balancing a meaningful lifestyle with chronic symptoms, she regards herself as a warrior – not a sufferer. And she strongly encourages others to hold the same perspective, for it is the struggles of life that lead to the development of inner strength and empowerment.

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WHAT I’VE LEARNT ABOUT SELF CARE:

It’s powerful. It’s healing. It’s multifaceted. It’s a process that is ultimately life-changing.

Do these sound like overstatements? Perhaps they do, depending on where you currently sit on the self-esteem continuum.

To me, that opening paragraph certainly would have sounded unbelievable – even laughable – had I read it when I was a lot younger and didn’t understand the power of self-care and its broad implications.bowl of self esteem

I don’t think I’ve ever met anyone who doesn’t suffer from some degree of damage to their self-esteem. Some of us are sharply aware of our corroded sense of self-worth. Some of us are not.

I was initially in the latter category – in denial. As a teenager, I was already a professional success in a number of creative fields. I simply couldn’t see – or maybe didn’t want to see – that my self-esteem was low because I felt very confident in my abilities.

It was the curse/gift of illness that forced me to honestly examine myself. I realised then that our self images are multifaceted. In my case, although I had a good appreciation of my talents and a strong sense of myself as a writer/singer/dancer, I still felt that WHO I was did not deserve love, acceptance, respect, care or nourishment on any level.

And so the learning process began…

I learned that self-care (which is married to self-esteem) has multiple components, hence the ripple effect on the many areas of our lives.

For me, the first component of self-care was learning to nurture my body and take appropriate action to get my physical needs met. Sometimes, perfect health may not always be a blessing because it can blind us to our self-mistreatment. We race through our daily routines, our minds focused elsewhere, while we neglect our body’s need for proper nutrition, adequate rest, or balanced exercise. In many cases, we abuse our bodies with alcohol, tobacco, drugs, strain/overwork and other unhealthy habits. The body is a miraculous machine or vehicle, and it deserves to be treated with care and respect. If we fail to do this, we will inevitably become unwell. I learned the hard way that it’s not worth waiting until our vehicle breaks down before we start being kind to it.

On the psychological level, I came to understand that self-care has many elements and is very broad in scope. It encompasses nurturing ourselves emotionally, releasing all self-judgment, clearing toxic feelings and beliefs that negate us in any way, forgiving ourselves, standing up for ourselves, voicing our rights, protecting our hearts from hurt, recognising our true, immeasurable worth and essentially loving, accepting and respecting ourselves unconditionally.

Phew! Making all those attitudinal adjustments and changes is clearly not an overnight process! Indeed, it is a journey of growth that leads to empowerment. I’m still walking the path because there is always more to learn, particularly when life keeps placing us in situations that continuously challenge us in different ways.

But every step along the path is worth it. Because we are worth the effort it takes and the rewards we reap from caring for every dimension of ourselves. And what’s more, it isn’t only ourselves who benefit. This is by no means a purely selfish practice. I know it might sound like a cliché, but it really is true that if you can’t love and care for yourself, then you cannot do the same for another. After all, how can an empty vessel fill another? The greater your capacity to love and care for yourself, the greater your capacity to give and make a valuable contribution to the lives of others. 

 

And ultimately, that’s what we’re here for.

 carer serenity scene

Why I write …

It’s been a while since I wrote a blog post and I feel bad for not posting more often. That said, there is a reason for it and I know that ultimately for my long-term vision, the delays now will translate to the freedom of expression that I yearn for later. I am hoping that this post will help clarify what is going on for me and where I am heading with my destiny.

I have been invited to participate in a blog hop by a lovely lady named Leanda. She writes over at Write to Heal. To find out more about her work please visit her site and check out the incredible work she does. I guess the easiest way to explain a blog hop is to say that it is a tool to assist bloggers and writers to link and network with each other. Readers are also given a chance to learn more about the blogger/writer and what makes them tick. The topic I have been challenged with is “why I write” …

What am I working on?

I work as a counsellor and have been doing so for 10 years. My current job has provided me with the opportunity to transform from a new counsellor with raw talent to a professional clinician. Part of my job is to write and develop group workshops. I have recently launched a range of half-day workshops to help people with a variety of issues that are relevant for our client base. The response to these has been nothing short of amazing and the outcomes have been powerful.

I am also studying a Master’s degree in Applied Psychology. I’ve been performing practicum requirements in a placement workplace whilst simultaneously attending classes on campus, learning about neuroscience (what happens inside the brain when it is impacted by issues such as trauma, addictions and mental health) and how this translates into the day-to-day practice of psychology. This has given me invaluable information in how to utilise my skills with clients.

In the little spare time I have, I am also working on my first book; a small how-to, easy to understand guide on how people can prevent others’ issues impacting on them.

When I look at how much I have been doing at work and what I’ve been doing at university, and when I consider that the university campus is a 4 hour round trip each week, I wonder how I have remained sane. But, both work and study are providing me with some exceptional skills that I can use in my professional life after graduation. I have a clear vision of where I want to be and as much as I want to make it happen now, I have discovered that for the moment, I need to prioritise self-care above the vision, because ultimately to reach the vision I need to get through the qualifications.

How does my writing differ from others in its genre?

I try to impart knowledge of psychology and the mind. Much of the information out there in this niche seems to be quite technical and can be difficult to understand for people who have no experience with it. I pride myself on my ability to write for people who have no understanding in how the mind works and how changing small things can help them transform their lives in big ways.

Why do I write what I do?

I want to educate, inform, inspire and lead people to live their best lives. I want people to love who they are, to accept and embrace themselves fully and unconditionally. And if I am to support others in their journey, I need to be able to practice what I preach. So I also use my writing as a way to process the stuff in my head and get clarity in my own mind of the direction I am heading and the future awaiting me.

How does my writing process work?

I began writing originally as a way to vent and process the turmoil in my head. I used it as an act of self-care. It has undergone a transformation over the past twelve months or so; from a personal method of self-care to a professional means of communication to impart knowledge and education.

The process is much the same whichever goal I have (personal or professional). An idea will spark in my mind. I’ll often let it simmer for a while, formulating a vision for the final product. When I sit down to write I simply allow my fingers to do what they do. I find that if I just go with the flow and allow my instinct to lead; my writing is strong and powerful. When the words naturally taper off I go back to edit for spelling, grammar and sentence structure, sometimes leaving it a while before doing so to get a fresh perspective.

 

The final part of this blog hop is to introduce you all to three people who will be hopping right behind me and taking their turn in sharing why they write.

 

Glenda Bishop Healthy StoriesGlenda Bishop helps people to live a healthier life by inspiring them to eat better, become stronger, and live a calmer and more content life. She is a Registered Nutritionist, neuroscientist, and personal trainer, who is particularly interested in how your physical health strengthens your mental wellbeing. After becoming frustrated by the mixed health messages that abound across the internet, Glenda founded Healthy Stories to create a place where the science of health meets real life. At Healthy Stories you will find tips for healthy eating and living, delicious healthy recipes, and practical ways to improve your wellbeing.

 

 

Kate MooreKate Moore is passionate about life. She coaches others in work, life and health to master and love what they do, live intentionally, design the life they want, build a healthy lifestyle and feel at their best. You can find Kate over at Lift Coaching where she blogs about all things life, love, health, work, motivation, mastery, passion, values, gratitude and inspiration related. Kate takes a very practical and action-driven approach to … well, everything and loves helping others get ‘unstuck’ by identifying their personal strengths and using real life skills and tools to change habits and behaviour, and get people where they want to go. You can also find Kate on Facebook where she shares daily quotes, interesting reads, recipes, workouts and lots of other bits of pieces to brighten your day.

 

Emma Fahy Davis is a journo who turned to blogging as a way of exorcising the words in her head while taking a break from the media to raise her five daughters. She blogs at Five Degrees of Chaos about the chaos that comes with having a big family, her experiences with mental illness and living with the legacy of addiction, and about the challenges of parenting a chronically ill child. In between refereeing sibling squabbles and moonlighting as a taxi driver to a relentless army of small people, she can be found hanging out on Facebook and Twitter.

30 Things to do to Yourself

The other day I came across an article that listed 30 things that people needed to stop doing to themselves in order to feel happy and fulfilled. It proclaimed, “when you stop chasing the wrong things you give the right things a chance to catch you”. You can see the full article here if you’re interested.

The thing is, the language used in this post is worded in the negative. Don’t do this, don’t do that. When I read things phrased in this way I often end up wondering what I CAN do if not the things listed. The brain cannot tell the difference between them. If I told you to NOT, under any circumstances, think about a red car, I’m willing to bet that the first thing that comes to mind is a red car.

So, when we tell ourselves NOT to do something, our brains literally block out the “NOT”. Have you ever tried to tell a child not to run on wet concrete? I bet they run faster! Have you tried telling a child not to eat the chocolate bar in the fridge? I bed the next time you walk by, the chocolate bar will have disappeared and you can see smears across his or her mouth. If you want a child to follow your instructions, you need to tell him/her what TO do, rather than what NOT to do. Walk along the concrete. Eat the grapes (and put the chocolate bar out of sight).

So, I decided to rewrite it. And rephrase it. Let me know what you think:

  1. Spend time with happy people who support you – spending time with people who drain you is tiring! Find some silent presencepeople will stand by you when you’re at your worst.
  2. Face your problems – Yes, it’s hard work. Every person on the planet finds it challenging to face difficult situations. We are built to flounder. To feel emotions such as sadness or hurt. To stumble. Learning and adapting helps mold us into the person we are meant to be.
  3. Be truthful with yourself – it really does help you make those adjustments and to step up when you face difficulties.
  4. Put your own needs first – you are special too, and you deserve to be taken care of. Allow yourself to follow your passion and do something that matters to you.
  5. Be your true self – allow yourself to be who you really are and you will naturally attract the right people who love you.
  6. Allow yourself to move forward and take new opportunities.
  7. Make friends with failure – you learn so much more from getting things wrong than getting them right. Every success has a series of failures behind it. Every time you fail, you get closer to success.
  8. Let go of past mistakes – mistakes help us find the things and the people who are right for us. Every error teaches you something and prepares you for the things that are right for you. Right here, right now, you have the power to shape your future.
  9. Allow happiness to find you – the things that satisfy us are totally free. Take note of the little things and allow them to fill your heart with joy.
  10. Look for happiness within yourself – looking to others for your happiness is fraught with danger and opens you up to being controlled by the other person’s moods. Create your own stability and own your own power for happiness. It starts with what is on the inside.
  11. Be prepared to go after what you want – you can’t make it to your goal unless you take the first step. Take some risks. Make decisions and take decisive action on what you want.
  12. Allow yourself to grab opportunities outside your comfort zone – it’s common to feel uncomfortable when
    found on art.com

    found on art.com

    opportunities present themselves. You may not feel ready, but you don’t have to be. Feel the fear and do it anyway.

  13. Fall in love for the right reasons – there is no need to rush. Allow it to happen when you’re ready, not when you’re lonely.
  14. Be open to new relationships – even when old ones didn’t work. There is a purpose for everyone you meet. Some are to teach you what you don’t need in your life.
  15. Run your own race – when you compete with others you do yourself a disservice. Competing takes you away from being your true self.
  16. Count your blessings – you always have something that is worth feeling blessed for. Why would you bother keeping track of someone else’s blessings when you have your own?
  17. Be prepared to get back up when you fall down – life is full of challenges and falling down is inevitable. When you reflect back on those moments you’ll often find they led you to a better place or situation.
  18. Let go of grudges – allow love to fill your heart and let the hate go. When you hold onto grudges you end up hurting yourself more than the person it’s directed toward.
  19. Raise your standards – if you keep your standards above those of the people around you, your heart will always be full.
  20. Give yourself permission to make your own decisions – if you listen to your heart you will always know what to do. There is no need to justify or explain yourself to others.
  21. restTake a break – especially when you feel like you don’t have time for one. The perfect time to take some breaths is when you feel the most stressed.
  22. Find the beauty in the small moments – the best parts of your days will be the small moments. Enjoy them.
  23. Enjoy the imperfections – nothing is ever perfect. It doesn’t exist.
  24. Embrace challenges – some things are not easy. Especially the things that mean the most to you. Embrace the challenge and work for what you want.
  25. Allow yourself to cry – it’s ok to fall apart sometimes, you don’t have to suck it up all the time. You don’t need to have things going well all the time. Crying is cathartic and healing. It gets rid of toxins in your system and cleanses your emotions.
  26. Take responsibility for your life – and your decisions. When you blame others you allow them to control you. Own your power by owning your decisions and actions.
  27. Choose what you do wisely – trying to be everything to everyone will very quickly drain you of your energy and burn you out. Make your choices based on the things that are most important to you.
  28. Let go of your worries – at least some of them. Ask yourself if this situation will matter in one year. What about in three years? Or five? If the answer is no, let it go.
  29. Focus on what you want to happen – rather than on what you don’t want to happen. By doing this you train your brain to look for the opportunities and the blessings.
  30. Be grateful – find 5 things each day that you are grateful for. You’ll soon find yourself inundated with the beautiful blessings in life rather than the missing links.

gratitude breathe it in

Fake It Until You Make It

The language we use can be very powerful. It can mean the difference between getting what we want and being disappointed, over and over again. It can be the difference between experiencing joy and gratitude, or sadness and despair. We can wonder why things never go the way we want them to, or we can do something about it by taking small steps each day that lead us closer to our goal. Our chosen path is very dependent upon our mindset; the words we have in our heads, the things we tell ourselves. 

Cassandra Webb is an author. Tomorrow she will be appearing at an event on the Gold Coast, signing copies of her very first book. It took her a lot of effort, grit and determination to get to this point. She didn’t always believe she could do it, but by taking small steps each day, she has created her dream and made it happen. She has used the power of language to support her. This is the story of how she made it happen. 

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Life is all about attitude and mindset right? Confidence and self-esteem. What about for a writer, sitting alone in their little (in my case messy) office? Not long ago I came across the saying, ‘Fake It Until You Make it’ and I’ve been trying to live by it ever since. This is how.

If writing was my ‘job’ I’d have a start time, a finish time, and a certain standard of work in order to not get fired. At present writing doesn’t pay enough of the bills for my husband to allow me to call it my ‘job’. But I have a “three thousand words a day” goal. I sit down and work my butt off to achieve this goal every day. I sacrifice meals and T.V., sleep and evenings out to get the job done. Because one day I will make it, and writing will be my ‘job’, until then I’m just going to fake it.

A professional [insert your desired field] has a certain way of presenting themselves. Even an amateur soccer player still runs onto the field in all the right gear. So even though I’m not a ‘professional’ writer, time and consideration is still required before I sit behind my little stall at the markets. Yes, I’m ‘faking it’, but I’m not going to sell any copies of my book sitting at the markets in my swimwear unless my book involves swimming. The same goes for a job interview with a law firm. If you turn up looking like a mechanic fresh from under a car you’re chances of success are pretty low.

‘Faking it’ means trying to be the best you can, even when you think the limits are beyond you at the moment. It doesn’t mean slipping into a mindset that allows you to believe you are already the best there is. It’s a hard distinction that involves being your own best friend and worst critic at the same time.

If you could peep through my window when I’m editing you’d probably think I’m insane. According to me I’ve written a masterpiece, but everyone gets rejection letters and I’ll be crying and laughing and patting myself on the back whilst I hack up my beautiful literary baby and try to make the masterpiece worthy of a publisher. You can’t ‘fake’ good writing, but the professional attitude of someone who can improve through criticism? Yes you can fake that.

I signed up for my first big event this year. It’s called Indie Authors Down Under and it will be held at the Gold Coast on the 22nd of March. http://www.indieauthorsdownunder.com/

When I put my name down and secured my little stall three months ago I didn’t even have a book in print. The printed version was available through Amazon, but I didn’t have any copies to physically sell myself! I was drowning just in the idea of have to talk to so many people and try to ‘sell’ them something.

There was nothing for it. I could have let the opportunity pass or I could ‘fake it’. With the help of my local writers group we got together and held a market stall over the Christmas period. I needed to do a test or dry run. The same way some couples do a pre-birth rush to the hospital to check they know the way and how long it will take etc. I was nervous, and for those of you who don’t know me I suffer from anxiety so nervous is an understatement. I had muscle spasms running across my back, and an ache from the tension in my jaw, my hands were noticeably shaking and all I wanted to do was get out of there.

There was only one thing for it; I had to ‘fake it’.

I squared my shoulders, mentally told myself to smile, and began shaking hands. It wasn’t easy, but it also didn’t kill me and amazingly two fantastic locals purchased my book.

We all have a different idea of what exactly ‘making it’ means. Some successful writers have million dollar bank balances, others have the luxury of a household name or movie deals. And maybe all of the above would be nice, but even those writers who have ‘made it’ still feel like lounging around the house in their old socks with their hair undone some days and on those day’s even they have to fake it.

I’ll be ‘faking it’ on the Gold Coast on the 22nd of March, and if you happen to come along to the Indie Authors Down Under event I’d love to see you.

This is the event: http://www.indieauthorsdownunder.com/

And this is me: http://www.cassandrawebb.com/

 

Leonie’s journey with Bipolar

It’s been several days since the last post was published on Kate’s life with Bipolar Disorder. Leonie has the same diagnosis and the other day she spent some time telling me of her experiences. Leonie’s story is one of suffering and sadness. And it is also one of strength, perseverance and triumph. She has taken her illness and the darkness it produced, and has found a way to use a variety of strategies and to create the light of her life. As always, if reading Leonie’s story triggers your own illness, please speak with your mental health professional or call Lifeline on 13 1114.

Leonie was first diagnosed with depression in 2003 and was prescribed an antidepressant. This led to a psychotic manic episode, which was followed by a period in hospital a month or two later. Even though she was heavily sedated and experiencing delusions, she clearly remembers the moment she left the doctor’s office after hearing him say the phrase “it seems likely you have bipolar”.

When she shared the diagnosis with a close friend from her early university daLeonie bipolar think in my headys, she was told, “hindsight is 20/20”. Other friends and family agreed. Leonie had been living with bipolar since she was a teenager. Fast forward to 2003 and much of her life had masked the illness.

Leonie gave birth to a son in 1998 and a daughter in 2001. In September 2001, when planes hit the World Trade Centre in New York on 9/11, her daughter was two months old. Leonie remembers her prevailing and repetitive thought was, “how could I have brought my baby into such a brutal world?” Her general practitioner realises now that she was living with post natal depression at the time. In fact, she lived with it following the birth of both children.

With friends living in the state next to the World Trade Centre, and a 2 month old baby, 9/11 hit Leonie hard. Her existing depression led to her spiraling further into the illness.

Leonie bipolar saying

Not quite that simple, Leonie’s transformation has taken many years

She returned to work part-time at the beginning of 2002 and found it very stressful. She ended up on indefinite long service leave. She felt unsupported, confused and lost.

Then, in January 2003, when her daughter was 18 months old, she looked up to the air conditioning duct in her house to see flames. She got herself and the children out and by the time the fire brigade arrived smoke was billowing from every orifice of the house. While most of the damage was confined to the roof cavity, the rug where the children were sitting when the flames were first seen was burnt by a molten air conditioning vent that had fallen. Leonie became fearful of staying in the house, and also fearful of leaving it at the same time. How much turmoil and confusion she must have been feeling at that time!

While Leonie was taking a shower one day in June 2003 she distinctly remembers not being able to work out why she was in there or knowing what to do next. She couldn’t work out how to turn off the water or grab a towel. She managed to call a friend, who gave her instructions to “hang up, don’t move and pick up the phone when it rings”, after promising to help. Together they dressed and breakfasted the children and took them to day care. They made a doctor’s appointment to see her General Practitioner and went with her friend’s support a couple of days later. Leonie was diagnosed with depression and prescribed Zoloft, an antidepressant. Within a month Leonie experienced psychosis, which is apparently a common result when that type of antidepressant is prescribed to someone with bipolar.

The 5 years between 2003 and 2008 were very bleak for Leonie. She spent most of the time severely depressed, with a few severe manic episodes. Christmas 2008 was very bleak. A few months earlier Leonie experienced a manic episode involving some friends, which affected their friendship in a negative way. Whilst attending the Christmas assembly at her children’s school she experienced a full-blown panic attack. She felt like the worst mother in the world and completely demoralised.

Leonie began thinking about suicide as an option so her family would no longer have to feel the shame she felt she brought on them. She felt they would be better off without her. Even though her husband and mother knew she was low, she hid the extent of it from them.

By this time her file at her mental health centre was an inch thick. Between 2003 and January 2009 she felt like the mental health professionals came through a revolving door.

Leonie bipolar difference 08 v 13

Bottom: 2008, Top: 2013

The day that produced the turning point came when she saw one specific psychiatrist in that very long line of professionals. She walked in the door at her lowest ever point and was asked to tell her story yet again. The thought of rehashing all the pain and suffering was unbearable. Two minutes in, the psych was on the phone asking for a bed in the closest inpatient unit.

Leonie was in hospital for a month so that her new doctor could observe her closely as he fine tuned her medication. She felt lucky that she had finally found the right fit with a mental health professional. He was intuitive and understood her well.

Leonie bipolar stand up 8

She was out of hospital another month before another manic episode hit as a result of coming out of such a low. Bordering on psychotic again, she ended up in the emergency room with police hovering for most of the day while waiting on a bed in the inpatient unit. For another month, her doctor once again monitored her closely as he readjusted her medications. Leonie remains on these same medications to this day.

Career wise, traveling back in time briefly, in about 2005/6, Leonie was working 2 days a week as a teacher. She struggled because she was so depressed. Despite her then psychologist strongly suggesting that she submit a medical retirement, she resisted. The thought broke her heart. In a job that she had previously loved, she felt that she was unfit to do that work forever. But she couldn’t bring herself to submit the paperwork.

Leonie bipolar plans

Leonie’s doctor discharged her from hospital at the end of May 2008. She experienced one minor depressive episode which lasted approximately a week. At that point she participated in her second, 10-week mindfulness course. By October of that same year she was once again doing 2-3 days of casual teaching each week. She chose her schools carefully as she made these tentative steps, but felt like she had her life back.

The entire year of 2009 saw her regularly working 3-5 days per week (at various schools). In the final term one school invited her to work 3 days a week for the rest of the year. In consultation with her team of professionals and close family, by October she decided to go back to full-time work.

At the beginning of 2010 she began her new job, a position she retains today. At first she didn’t tell anyone at her work about her illness due to feelings of shame and fear of judgement. But after she felt she had proven her wellness, she received incredible support from her boss.

Other than one minor and short-live depressive episode in 2012, which included anxiety attacks, she has been free of mood swings. While she doesn’t consider herself “cured”, and she will be on medications for the rest of her life, her condition is now successfully being managed. She utilises a team of professionals.

Leonie Bipolar

The joy after conquering a long-held fear of going down a huge water slide

Psychiatrist, Psychologist, General Practitioner. She combines medications with regular mindfulness training and sessions with her psychologist. She has made significant changes to her lifestyle by exercising and eating healthily. She now gets adequate sleep after discovering that the lack of it contributed to her manic episodes.

Leonie also calls on the support of close family, colleagues and friends. She feels blessed to be a part of a wonderful circle of social support. She now knows, thanks to this amazing support, that she no longer needs to keep the secret and shame.

Leonie feels that the key to beginning her path to wellness was to find that one professional that she could really connect with.

Leonie bipolar xmas 2013

Christmas 2013 and Leonie’s new way of being

Emma’s experience with OCD

I’d like to introduce you to Emma. She does her best to parent her beautiful children while living with OCD. She copes with constant obsessions and compulsions every day. Hopefully her experiences will resonate with some of you. Please remember that if you are dealing with similar situations you may benefit from some support from a mental health professional. If anything in Emma’s experiences triggers you, please consider calling Lifeline for a chat on 13 1114.

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When my psychiatrist first suggested I might have OCD, I laughed. Of course not! “People with OCD don’t know the things they do are crazy, that’s why they do them,” I told him. “I’m fully aware that these things I do are crazy, I’m just not sure why I can’t stop doing them.”

In my mind, OCD was Adrian Monk, obsessed with hand-washing and germs and totally oblivious to the fact that he’s completely batshit crazy.

And me? I just have a bit of a thing for even numbers and I’m fussy about how I hang the laundry. Eccentricities. Quirks. Not a disorder.OCD Emma profile1

It wasn’t until the psychiatrist pointed out just how much time these little ‘quirks’  (or as he called them ‘rituals’) take out of my day, and how much of the in-between time I spend feeling anxious about them, that I began to concede that he might be right. In fact, OCD is by definition egodystonic – sufferers are well aware that their actions are irrational and that awareness is the basis for a lot of the anxiety that comes with it. The hand-washing and obsessive cleanliness? A common symptom but not definitive.

When my OCD it was at its worst, I spent most of my waking hours either performing rituals (that’s the compulsive part), or thinking about performing them (that’s the obsessive part). I couldn’t have the volume on my television or radio set to an odd number. I couldn’t take my baby out of the bath unless the digital clock above the bench where I bathed her read an even number. If I arrived home and the clock in the car was on an odd number, I’d pull over to the side of the road just outside my driveway and wait for them to tick over to an even number. When I did the groceries, I had to buy two loaves of bread or four, not three, although I rationalised in my head that one wasn’t technically an odd number because it’s just one. See, totally irrational!

Why did I do all these things? Because in my mind, I believed that if I didn’t do them, bad things would happen. The bad things were rarely directly related to the rituals themselves; I think the rituals were more just a way of keeping my hands and mind busy and in doing so, keeping the churning anxiety at bay.

Perhaps even more distressing than the obsessions and the compulsions however were the intrusive thoughts – thoughts which had no basis in reality but which came crashing into my conscious mind in the most upsetting manner. Perhaps most vivid is the night I was lying in bed trying to get to sleep when I suddenly thought, ‘I’ve never wanted to harm myself because I couldn’t stand the thought of someone else raising my children. But if I kill myself and the children I don’t have to worry about that’.

OCD Emma 3

 

I’d never, not once in my entire life, ever consciously thought about hurting myself. And the idea that such a thought had even occurred in my mind, regardless of how completely ridiculous it was, made me so desperately upset that I lay awake for the rest of the night, terrified to go to sleep lest I wake up to find those crazy intrusive thoughts had invaded my reality.

That was my tipping point, the point where I realised that the OCD was controlling me and not the other way around. I started on medication, and while I was skeptical about whether it would work – in my mind, I still saw the compulsions as behavioural and I couldn’t see how altering the chemicals in my brain could fix that – it did. After about three days, I suddenly found my anxiety levels dropping. That in itself was disconcerting. I’d worn the anxiety for so long like an old familiar coat that living without it took some adjustment. At a fundamental level, I still believed that I needed the anxiety in order to provoke the rituals which prevented the bad things from happening.

In addition to the medication, I also started regular CBT sessions with a psychologist who specialised in OCD. These sessions taught me techniques for living my new, medicated life without the anxiety cloak. I don’t know that medication or the therapy would have worked as standalone treatments, but the combination of the two was incredibly effective.

OCD Emma 2It’s been nearly seven years since I was diagnosed with OCD, and while it’s still there affecting my life in little ways, the medication and therapy combo continues to help me keep it somewhat under control. I’ve also learned some creative ways to avoid the compulsions – for example, I have a lot of rituals around hanging the laundry on the line. The washing must come out of the machine and into the basket in a certain order. It must then be hung on the line in a certain order, the pegs must all match and certain items require specific combinations of pegs. It can take up to an hour to hang a single load, and with five small children, there’s simply too much laundry and not enough time, so instead of battling with my head to try to combat the rituals, I avoid them altogether by drying all the washing in the clothes dryer. Yes, it’s an expensive exercise, and no, it’s not great for the environment, but if there’s one thing that living with OCD has taught me it’s to save my energy for the big stuff and not sweat the small stuff.

I’m open with my friends and family about what it’s like to live with OCD, and it’s even been the source of some amusement – my husband regularly tells people that he got ripped off because I don’t have the obsessive cleanliness thing going on. He reckons that if he has to live with the darker side of the condition, the least he deserves is the perk of a clean house!

I’m also realistic about the fact that I’ll probably need to keep taking medication for the rest of my life. I’ve had a few breaks from it over the years and they’ve generally not gone so well. Without the medication, the anxiety is simply too overwhelming for the CBT techniques to touch. Do I love the idea of pumping my brain full of drugs? Of course not! But it keeps the playing field level, it gives me the upper hand over my OCD and that makes it worth it.

I own my OCD, I will not let it own me. 

OCD Emma 1

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OCD Emma profileOne-time high-flying journo turned SAHM, Emma blogs at Five Degrees of Chaos about parenting on the edge of sanity – navigating her own personal mental health minefield while raising five girls, one of whom lives with chronic illness. You can find her blog here.

 

The Realities of BPD

Following the focus this week on Borderline Personality Disorder (BPD), Tegan Churchill has kindly put together her own experiences living with this illness. She explains how it has impacted on her life and now how she copes with a young family. Very brave and resilient woman!

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 I remember the first time I knew that a diagnosis of Borderline Personality Disorder was on the cards. I was sitting in the waiting room of my small town doctor, my chart on my lap because there was no computer system yet. Curiosity got the better of me and I flicked through the pages. Nestled in the back was a letter from the psychologist I was seeing at the time, in bold letters were the words Borderline Personality Disorder. I was confused, on the borderline of what? I committed the term to memory so that I could look it up on the internet when I got home.

I didn’t like what I saw, the checklist of symptoms read like a list of ‘how to suck at life’. I knew that I ticked most of those boxes and I was ashamed. I was 15 at the time but a definite diagnosis was not made until I was 18. Doctors decided that I had, had enough time to grow into my personality and this was how it was going to be for the rest of my life.

I sought out support in online forums, losing myself in an online world. All around me my life was falling to pieces. I dropped out of university, I was living with my grandmother and spending most of my days in bed. My GP told me that I was a 9 year old trapped in an adult’s body. I was horrified at the time, unable to process the comment. Looking back now, it’s true.

BPD

I was on a destructive path. A suicide attempt lead to my mother moving with me to a larger center with more mental health services. It didn’t matter, I was hell bent on destroying myself. I was reckless and failed to see the consequences. After ending up in jail for 2 months, my mother moved back to our hometown. I stayed in the city and moved into single’s accommodation for women. I had everything I wanted; I lived in a large town where nobody knew me.

I didn’t know what to do with my thoughts. They were all consuming, every emotion felt like a thousand knives were piercing my skin. I didn’t know how to express my feelings. I lashed out at anyone who tried to help me. I was like a stubborn child. The professionals who were supposed to help me wrote me off as an attention seeker. Therapy was stopped after another suicide attempt and I found myself floating through a system that seemed hell bent on keeping me unwell.

Having Borderline makes making and maintaining relationships difficult. I find myself going between loving a person more than anything and hating them with everything in my being. I often turn people off without a second thought to repair the relationship. I find myself in screaming matches with people who I love, feeling a rage that is so all consuming that I worry that my veins will burst through my skin. I turn into the hulk and it takes me days to calm down.

For years I turned to self-harm to help fight the feelings. I self-harmed to make me feel and to stop feeling too much. Each time I cut it had to be deeper than the last time. I didn’t want to die; I just wanted to destroy myself, to punish myself for the perceived wrongs that I had committed.

bpd 3rd deg burns

Now I have a child to consider. He is counting on me to be there, and he is the reason that I looked into better therapy. I let my moods and my coping skills get a lot worse again before I admitted I needed help. I had put on a mask, hidden behind a wall and didn’t let my feelings out anymore. I was afraid that I would lose my son. The mask was so good that my current psychologist was skeptical that I had Borderline at all.

I have recently completed a course of Dialectal Behavioural Therapy (DBT) and found it immensely helpful. It was a relief to have someone take me seriously, who saw that I was someone worthy of treatment and had the time to spend working on my issues.

I’m a different person to when I first received the diagnosis of Borderline Personality Disorder. I still struggle to express my feelings, and to interpret others’ intentions but I am making progress. I still catch myself wandering down the destructive path, but I know that I have so much more to live for. I still feel like I’m walking around with no skin, taking in every slight, every glance, every word but I am getting better at processing the thoughts.

Borderline may be something that I will always struggle with but I am happy that I am filling my toolbox so the good days begin to outweigh the bad.

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tegan churchillBlurb: Tegan can be found at http://www.musingsofthemisguided.com where she talks about mental illness, parenting and everything in between. She hopes that by sharing her story and knowledge that she can do her part to help rid the world of stigma. Joining her on the journey is her partner Paul, a 4 year old bundle of energy and a puppy with an attitude.

Resolutions

resolutions comic

At the close of one year and the beginning of the next many people pledge that they will “change their ways”.

Lose weight, stay organised, join a gym, give up sugar, start a business, take better care of family, save money.

In the last few days of December most of us make the resolution to “make it happen”. For the first few days or weeks, or even months, you go great. Then stuff happens and everything falls over. You end up feeling like a failure and start believing that you’ll never be any good at anything.

The following year you repeat the same process. And again the following year. And again. And again and again.

You create a pattern of: set resolution, go well for short period, fail, beat self up, repeat.

And within a very short space of time you hate yourself because you can never do anything right.

Sound familiar?

What if you could change your patterns, achieve what you set out to do and feel great about it?

Here are some tips that may help:

WIN_20131231_195349 (2)

  1. Find your passion – you’re much more likely to achieve something if you are emotionally invested in it. So choose something that you can get excited about! If joining a gym and working out on weight machines, treadmills and rowers has you almost falling asleep with boredom, don’t go near it! But if your aim is to get fitter, and you love football, consider joining a team in your community. If it’s not something that really gets your juices flowing, forget it! Seriously. It’s not worth the angst you would put yourself through.
  2. Don’t try to do everything at once – losing weight AND saving money AND staying organised AND being a better parent AND giving up sugar AND quitting smoking. I’m exhausted just thinking about all that! You’ll overwhelm yourself with new things to do and adding it all into an already full weekly schedule puts you behind the starting gate even before the horse is out of the stable! This stuff needs to work FOR you, not against you! Our brains can only hold a limited amount of information at a time, so don’t try to cram too much in there at once.
  3. Take the word “resolution” out of the equation – like diets, they just don’t work. There seems to be a societal smart goals explainedmindset about them. Instead set goals. And set SMART goals. If you really want to achieve them, make sure that they are (S)pecific, (M)easurable, (A)chievable, (R)ealistic, and (T)ime based. Let’s say we use the example in point 1. Your overall aim is to be fitter. You love football and decide to join a team. So, you could set a goal of being able to run the length of the field 5 times without stopping during practice, by February 1, 2014. This goal is very specific. You’ve stated exactly what you’re going to do. It’s measurable. You can count 5 laps of the field. Achievable and realistic? That depends. If, right now, you find running 50 metres difficult, you might like to adjust your goal to something more achievable for you, such as running 2 lengths in 1 month. Or extend the time frame to 3 months. However, if you can currently run 3 lengths without any problems, another 2 lengths inside a month shouldn’t pose too many difficulties. Time based? This one is pretty self-explanatory. You put a time frame around the goal. So running the 5 lengths within the month. Or 2 months. Or however long you think would be realistic for you. Plan it out, and make it work for you. If you don’t think it will work within the constraints you have in your life (other commitments like work, family, managing a house and so on), either adjust it so it does fit, or drop it entirely. It’s not worth the angst.
  4. Create a plan – break your goal down into manageable steps so that you know how much work you need to do to reach it. Start from your end point. For example, for the “run 5 lengths of the field” goal in 4 weeks (Jan 1 to Feb 1), you can break that down. You would need to run 2.5 lengths in 2 weeks, and 1 ¼ lengths in 1 week. If you know that, you can assess whether it is realistic and then plan your training so you can reach each weekly goal. There is a saying that goes something like, “if you fail to plan, you plan to fail”.
  5. Reward yourself – let’s say you’ve set your SMART goals, created a plan and scheduled in the steps to reach them. Plan in some rewards for yourself at regular intervals. For example, if you want to lose 15kg in 6 months, set yourself up some smaller goals in there. When you reach 5kg, treat yourself to a new haircut. At 10, maybe try a massage as a reward for all that hard work. And at your biggest milestone, a new wardrobe! You’ll need new clothes by then anyway, right? Whatever rewards you choose, plan them in advance and schedule them in. And use rewards that excite you!
  6. “What if?” scenarios – plan in some strategies for when things get tough. Because they certainly will! Things don’t always go smoothly. Kids get sick, extra bills crop up. Stuff happens. Accept that and go with the flow. The key is to not allow a few hiccups to derail you. So what if your child has to have emergency surgery and you end up sitting by the bed eating vending machine food for a week. What is more important to you in that moment? Being there to support and love your child, or getting into the gym at 5am? Life happens. So your goal is delayed a couple of weeks. Big deal. You could try minimising the impact by calling in a few favours from family or friends and asking them to provide you with some healthy, quick meals while you’re at your child’s bedside. But even if the contingency plan doesn’t happen, don’t stress it. A few weeks out of the rest of your life should not be a big enough thing to derail what you are passionate about. It’s much more important to keep your stress levels down so you can deal with the crisis at hand and then, once you’ve recovered, get back to your plan, revise it, and keep moving forward.
  7. Be flexible – things change. Priorities change. Obstacles crop up. You need to be flexible enough to go with the flow and readjust things as you need to. Don’t allow a few obstacles to dictate how you live for the rest of your life. YOU are way more important for that.
  8. Get very clear on why – you need some clarity on why it is you want to achieve your goals. What values do you have good stuff always worth the work it takesthat the goals you choose help you meet. For example, if you want to be a better parent and you decide that you will schedule a weekly “family night” (whatever that looks like for you), ask yourself why. Why is a family night important? Maybe because you love your family and you want to strengthen the bond within the family unit? Whatever it is for you, get very, very clear on it. Write it down, display it. Have it in your face every single day as a reminder (see point 10 as a creative way to do this).
  9. Remind yourself that you are worthy – of the time and effort it takes to improve yourself and your life. Of the reward you will see at the end when you have achieved what you set out to do.
  10. Create a vision board – I published a post back in July about how to create a vision board. They can be an amazing way to keep you focused and remind you of why you are doing what you are doing.

Note: The more excitement there is, the more likely you are to stick with it. So, find your passion and go get it! Feel free to share your 2014 goals and strategies! I’d love to hear them.

Looking at your purpose

As much as I like reinventing the wheel (well, new messages to people anyway), sometimes it would be detrimental to the message and what people may get from it. I would be doing people a disservice if I reinvented too much stuff!

So, when I found this article I thought it would be best to simply pass it on as it is, and just add my opinion 🙂

Have you ever wondered why you are here on this planet? What you are supposed to do with your life? Have you felt like there must be something more? Have you felt dissatisfied with your current life and frustrated that you don’t seem able to pull it all together and find a true passion for what you are doing?

Would you like to be able to feel completely comfortable in your own skin and with what you do? Would you like to feel like your life flows easily? That things happen with very little effort? To feel like things are going so well that nothing can go wrong?

Obviously there are times when things go wrong and this can be really sucky (and yes, that is a technical term!) I am a firm believer that if you are doing things that you LOVE, that you are passionate about, the feeling of “wrong” will be minimised.

This article was posted to a page I belong to on positive psychology. The author, Dr. Susan Biali, poses some questions that you can ask yourself to help you figure out what your purpose is. I love that she notes, right up front, to be gentle with yourself and go in with curiosity and no pressure to figure things out immediately. I totally agree with this. The more pressure you put on yourself, the less likely it will happen. You can’t rush this process. It will happen at the perfect time for you, when you are at a point in your life that you can open yourself up to see where your place is. If you aren’t ready, the opportunities won’t appear. Or more accurately, you won’t recognise them for what they are.

You can find the complete article from Dr. Susan Biali here, with a bio on her. Also, take a look at one of my previous posts here. I talk to teenagers about trusting that they have a place in the world, even if they don’t feel like they belong. Even though it is targeted at teens, it is equally applicable to anyone feeling like they don’t belong.

The rest of Dr. Biali’s article is below. I love how she tells her own story and how she has worked with each of her suggestions. I encourage you to let each sit with you as you consider how it fits with your life. Be kind to yourself.

life without purpose

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Purpose is very unique, a phenomenon that’s so individual that I believe only you can actually know it or figure it out, though others can certainly help provide input and guidance.

Before we get into a deeper discussion of this, I want to encourage you to release and let go of any pressure you might be feeling around the topic. Connecting with and living your purpose is a beautiful journey that typically unfolds in mysterious and surprising ways. It’s not something to be forced, or something to actively worry about “having to” find. I like to think of it as a treasure hunt, a perfectly paced adventure with your eyes and heart wide open.

All you have to do is decide to be open to this area of your life, and be willing to take whatever steps or inspiration call to you. I’m convinced that if you do that, you can’t go wrong, and you won’t “miss it”. Be curious. Enjoy the process. Marvel at life and its richness as you go along.

I smile indulgently now when I think of myself “way back when”…though really it was just a decade ago. I used to lie on the couch and read my favourite books by inspirational authors such as Wayne Dyer (I went through a huge Wayne Dyer phase!). These authors talked all the time about purpose, about everybody having one.

I was so frustrated that it felt physically painful. Though I found hope and inspiration in the writers’ lofty words, and something about this concept of purpose connected very deeply with me (I couldn’t stop reading about it), I was filled with fear that somehow I was that rare human being who didn’t have a purpose.

I was used to life disappointing me and somehow thought that I would be disappointed by this, too – that I’d somehow be left out of the loop, kept out of life’s inner circle.

Today I am continually amazed by the opportunities presented to me, worldwide, to help others live more fulfilling lives. Given what I do now for a living, do you see how hilariously ironic it is that I once despaired at having no purpose?

So, no matter what your thoughts and beliefs are around this concept, or what your thoughts and beliefs are around yourself and the value of you and your life, prepare for life to have some delicious, marvelous surprises in store for you in this area.

finding your purpose“Seek, and you shall find,” as the proverb goes.

Your purpose doesn’t at all have to be something BIG, either. The value of your impact on others and on the world has nothing to do with its scale.

There’s a saying I learned while living in Mexico: “Hay gente para todo.”

This means “there are people for everything”, and refers to the fact that in order for our world to function, we need people living and contributing at all kinds of different levels. If we each could find and inhabit the sphere where we’re supposed to be, and contribute what we were made to contribute, what a beautiful world it would be!

There is a lot of distraction out there that can cause people to miss the purpose of their life, and my goal is to help you see past the noise.

Not only are there the typical day-to-day distractions out there (the pressure to buy stuff; mind-numbing entertainment; addictions to food and other habits; chronic busy-ness that doesn’t give us time to think and reflect and live purposefully) but there are also distractions that come in the form of other people’s expectations and preconceived ideas about what a worthwhile purpose or contribution looks like.

Our society has very specific ideas about which callings are worthy and appropriate, which can confuse and distract. For example, when I first started telling people that I wanted to be a health and wellness educator and a dancer instead of working as a regular doctor, people would respond with guilt-provoking criticism.

“How can you quit medicine?” they would say, shaking their heads. “There are so many people who need good doctors, especially female doctors.” One person even accused me of stealing government funding that had contributed to my education!

I still use my medical education to benefit people, many more people than I ever could have helped by working in a clinic, yet the way I am doing this in the world doesn’t fit most people’s understanding of what doctors do and how they contribute to the world.

So how can you identify your purpose?

It may not be obvious and may be something that gradually emerges and takes form over years…you may even have several layers or aspects to what you are here for. journey for purpose

Here are some thoughts that may help connect you:

1) What do you love to do, that you would do even if you don’t get paid for it?

My true career or vocation is directly tied to my purpose, though the way you make your living does not necessarily have to have anything to do with why you are here. What is so you that you would just have to do it, no matter what?

2) What do other people say you’re really good at?

Be careful of going in a direction just because others think you should. That said, it’s a good idea to pay attention to the way others compliment you. Is there anything that you’re particular good at that people tell you that you should do professionally, or do more of?

People often tell me that they feel better, uplifted and energized, after spending time talking with me. Not too surprising then, that I now spend my life and even earn my living encouraging others and helping them improve their lives.

3) What is the one thing you want to experience, or do, or accomplish, before you die, so that on your last day on earth you feel satisfied and have no regrets in that area?

I often ask this of coaching clients, and the answers are always interesting and revealing. For me it would have been writing a book, and becoming a dancer (but really the book is the one big thing). The fact that this contribution in writing is so important to me helps confirm what is my greatest purpose.

Sure, I do lots of things such as speaking, coaching and media work, but I know in my heart that the writing is the core. It is the one thing that no matter what, I need to keep on doing.

What is that thing, for you? Don’t worry if you don’t have an answer yet. Keep asking the question, and keep your eyes open for clues that will come your way. Because the answer will show up, in perfect time. I promise you that.

 purpose bliss

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